News & Commentary

August 24, 2022

Jason Vazquez

Jason Vazquez is a student at Harvard Law School.

After two days on strike, the Columbus Education Association (CEA) and Columbus City Schools will return to the bargaining table this afternoon. More than 94 percent of the CEA’s nearly 4,500 members, consisting of teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists, and other education professionals employed by the public school system in Columbus, Ohio, voted on Sunday to reject the School Board’s last final offer, which included a three percent salary increase at each step of the salary, a $2,000 retention bonus, an increase in the number of school nurses and psychologists, and an additional planning day for teachers, to go on strike for the first time in almost fifty years.

The union has demanded, among other things, functioning heating, ventilation, and cooling systems in every building, smaller class sizes, more planning time for teachers, and an eight percent increase at each step of the salary scale for the next three years, but both of last week’s marathon negotiating sessions with federal mediators ended without an agreement. The strike began on Monday, and union members have been picketing outside the school buildings at which they work, prompting the district, the largest in the state with some 47,000 students, to announce that it would move to “synchronous and asynchronous remote learning” to launch the school year, which began this morning, administered by a staff of 600 substitute teachers. A CEA spokesperson affirmed that the union is “hopeful and ready to return to the table to give our students the schools they deserve.” The Columbus Dispatch reported this morning that many families have refused to send their children across the virtual picket line, opting to stand in solidarity with Columbus educators.

In the latest Starbucks news, the coffee giant will be closing two additional locations—one in Kansas City, Missouri, where union election results are pending, and another in Seattle, where employees voted to unionize in April—becoming the seventh and eighth stores shuttered after the workers had either unionized or filed an election petition. Although the company cited safety concerns, Starbucks Workers United (SWU) claims that the closures represent yet another example of unlawful anti-union retaliation by the coffee conglomerate. In other Starbucks updates, a majority of employees at a store in Wilmington, North Carolina voted yesterday to join SWU, becoming the 223rd Starbucks location in the United States to unionize.

Amazon is allegedly set to install new air conditioning equipment at a warehouse in New Jersey—the one where a worker, Reynaldo Mota Frias, tragically perished amid the summer’s Prime Day scramble, a death that the company insisted was not heat-related despite the fact that the facility experienced sweltering internal temperatures rising above ninety degrees. Mr. Frias’ death constitutes yet another example, this one heartbreaking, of the well-documented allegations that working conditions within Amazon’s warehouses are unsafe and dangerously intense, substantially a product of the dystopian and oppressive productivity quotas to which the e-commerce behemoth subjects the “industrial athletes” that toil within its facilities.

Finally, workers at a General Electric facility in Auburn, Alabama are engaged in an organization campaign, having filed a representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, seeking to join IUE-CWA. The petition was backed by union cards signed by a majority of the nearly 200 workers at the plant. Although a high-profile union drive at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama was unfortunately, and arguably unlawfully, defeated earlier this year, a potential union election at a GE plant in the Heart of Dixie offers a glimmer of hope that the recent wave of labor organizing sweeping the nation may yet break into the historically anti-union Deep South.

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